"This was a great win for us," Comiskey said. "We've battled hard, we've hung in there. It was a great feeling when that field goal went through the uprights."
New Mexico State falls to 1-6 overall and 0-3 in league play, while UL-Lafayette is now 1-7 and 1-3. "Last year we won the close ones, this year we haven't been able to win the close one's," NMSU coach Tony Samuel said.
NMSU had several opportunities to close out Thursday's game. Two interceptions, one by Dominique Jacobs and the other by Eric Carrie gave NMSU great field position in the fourth quarter.
But penalties and a turnover hurt the Ags. The interception by Carrie gave NMSU the ball back with 4:51 left at its own 38. NMSU drove to the UL 41, but a holding call halted momentum and on 3rd and 11 quarterback Paul Dombrowski was intercepted by Terryl Fenton, who returned it 21 yards to the Aggie 44 with 2:21 left.
"I thought Ronshay was more open than he was," Dombrowski. "It was a play that had worked before, but the defender made a great read on the play. We have to make the plays. We just have to execute better. The last three weeks, we've moved the ball, we've had chances, but we just have to find a way to win."
On the game-winning drive, quarterback Jerry Babb ran for 29 and passed for eight more to lead the way. "When we got the ball back, we felt good," said Babb, who replaced the injured Eric Rekieta in the first half. "We said let's go and we knew we we're going to win. Our defense stepped up and we had to take advantage."
For the third straight week, the Ags rolled up big numbers offensively, gaining 438 yards of total offense. NMSU also converted 9 of 18 third downs and won the time of possession 31:28 to 28:33.
Senior running back Eric Higgins, who has missed three games this year, had a season-best 139 yards on 20 carries. "We moved the ball, but we couldn't finish," Higgins said. "We had some chances, but we had some penalties and turnovers. We have to be more consistent in our overall game."
But the Aggies, who led 24-17 after three quarters, failed to find the end zone in the fourth quarter. "We did miss on some chances and we have to find a way to finish drives," Dombrowski said. NMSU controlled the third quarter, outscoring UL-Lafayette 10-0 to take a 24-17 lead. The Ags controlled the ball for nearly 11 minutes in the third quarter.
NMSU tied the game at 17 on a 33-yard field goal by Dario Aguiniga on its first drive of the second half. NMSU took a 24-17 lead when it went 11 plays on 65 yards, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass from Dombrowski to Ronshay Jenkins. Dombrowski finished 13 of 26 for 212 yards, while Jenkins caught five balls for 94 yards.
But UL came back to close within 24-23 early in the fourth quarter as Babb scored from three yards out to cap a 5-play, 57-yard drive. The key play was a 47-yard pass from Babb to B.J. Crist down to the Aggie 3-yard line on a 3rd and 11. UL missed the extra point on a botched snap by the center.
"We had a broken coverage on that pass play that set up the score," Aggie safety Dominique Jacobs said. "Their quarterback had hurt us with his scrambling and he started to run, then passed."
The Ragin' Cajuns put the first points up on the scoreboard Thursday, getting a Comiskey 38-yard field goal with 11:47 left in the first quarter. After a 39-yard kickoff return by Bill Sampy to midfield, the Ragin' Cajuns moved to the Aggie 20, but was stopped there.
The big play on the drive was a 24-yard pass from Rekieta to Travis Cones on 3rd and 14. Cones did most of the damage, breaking Spencer Moore's tackle and running 18 yards to the 30. NMSU had a chance to score in the first quarter, but Aguiniga missed a 30-yard field goal.
But NMSU's defense held and on the very next possession, the Ags went 68 yards on 13 plays in 6:23 to put NMSU up 7-3 early in the second quarter. Dombrowksi capped the drive with a 12-yard scoring run. On the drive he also completed passes of 13 and 23 on the drive. The two teams then traded scores as UL led 17-14 at the half.
UL stormed right back down the field to go up 10-7 as Babb capped a 10-play, 65-yard drive with a four-scoring drive. He replaced Rekieta, who fractured his right collarbone on the drive. Rekieta was big on the drive, converting two third downs with quarterback runs of 10 and 13. Babb also completed a 17-yard pass to Fred Stamps on the drive.
NMSU answered with a quick score to breifly take a 14-10 lead. Gill Bryd returned the kickoff 52 yards to the Cajun 48 and two plays later, Higgins scored from 47 yards out.
But the Ragin' Cajuns came right back and went 68 yards in 12 plays to go up 17-14 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Babb to Stamps. Babb wound up 9 for 12 in the first half for 77 yards, while Stamps had six catches for 64 yards. The Aggies failed to capitalize on their next possession after falling behind. NMSU drove to the UL 22 on three quick plays, but again the turnover bug hit NMSU as Dombrowski threw into heavy coverage and was intercepted by Lamar Morgan at the nine-yard line.
NMSU finished with 240 yards of total offense, while the Ragin' Cajuns had 195. Dombrowski was 6 of 10 passing for 98 yards, Higgins had 64 yards rushing, while Tony Joseph had 55 yards rushing.
The Aggies are at ULM next Saturday.